The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Nature of Truth

Recently, I've been made aware of some intracies of 'truth' that I'd, honestly, never really considered. I suppose my ideals of what truth were had been pretty well set in my personality as a child. Things, then, were pretty black and white. Things were either true or they weren't. You'd get in trouble with your parents or your teachers or your friends, if you got caught not telling the truth. And while I hadn't much considered that there were different kinds of truths, I suppose that's at least a theory worthy of exploration.

It was suggested that truth is a very subjective thing. And I don't imagine I can argue with that. Each person factors certain bits of information and formulates their own truths.

According to his staff, when Bill Clinton said that "he did not have sex with that woman", he believed he was telling the truth. Subjectively, he took the information in, filtered it through his own criteria, and out popped what he believed was the truth. But was it? Did his staff agreeing with it, make it a truth?

When Dubya insists that he honestly believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before we sent any troops in there, does that make it the truth? Have the subsequent facts borne his statement out? Perhaps it's, his truth. And, perhaps, his alone.

If each man has his own truths, how does a society have the ability to govern them? How do police have the ability to uphold the law? How do teachers have the ability to dispute a student's reasoning (no matter if it appears to her to be naive or faulty), and ultimately teach them the 'truth'? It would seem to me that, without benefit of some societal standards of definition, every transaction would be subject to interpretation. And while, largely, that is the case, there must be a definitive way to determine truths objectively, or the chaos would be quite maddening.

Because, how can what is the truth to one man be a lie to another? If both are looking at the same, objective facts, it would seem that both would come to similar conclusions. If the facts cannot change, then it must be in the subjective filter of information that we need to find the answer, right? Emotionalism can cloud one's judgment, making truths seem to be lies and lies seem to be truths. That is why, it's often necessary to have arbitrators, and mediators, and juries who can objectively review the facts in dispute, and determine the truth.

This, because, the truth should not be in flux. It should not be transient. It should be something we can all count on and all depend in. All successful relationships are built on a foundation of trust. If one man's truth is not necessarily another man's, how can people ever fall in love, or have a business relationship, or have any human interaction whatsoever without the very real risk of a disagreement, or a lawsuit, or a war?

And yet, even if we, as a people, are constantly attempting to make all truths objective, can they be? I mean, if they could, wouldn't there be some master list somewhere that we'd all know and believe? Wouldn't there be one faith? One political system? One set of values and morals? But there aren't. So, there is, quite obviously, at least some subjective factoring involved.

It is a jury's job to take the facts, and with the guidance of a judge, separate out the intentions and motivations of each party and come to a truth. One truth. One truth that we all subscribe to. That we all agree on. One truth devoid of the human emotional filters of motivation or interpretation of intent that make a truth subjective. One truth that everyone can, and has to, live with.

Pinocchio definitely didn't get to factor in what he, in his heart, believed, or his intent. When he got caught not telling the truth, it was there on his face for everyone to see. No explanations necessary. No "it might be a truth to me, but not to you". No "truth is subjective". He probably should have renegotiated his contract there, because he may have gotten a raw deal?

I don't think so. I'm gonna go out on a big limb here. (I have to. If it was a small limb, it'd just snap and I'd bust my head open. And where would we be? In the middle of an unfinished philosophical point. And that doesn't help anyone. Or, maybe it helps everyone. Tricky, tricky business, philosophizing!) I don't think truth is subjective. I think, perhaps, each individual's personal interpretation of truth is subjective. Truth, though, is the meat of the matter and it is, and must be, true for one and true for all. Therefore, it must be objective. The kernal of truth. The real, as opposed to the emotionally manipulated, deal.

Maybe it's not always obvious. Maybe you have to work hard to find it. But, just as we all know that Bill Clinton DID have sex with that woman (even though it's none of our business), it doesn't make it any less true to say he didn't believe he did when he originally denied it.

Arguments like that, get you a new white jacket with extra long sleeves and a ride to a private room with cushy walls. It didn't for Bill, because Bill finally admitted he lied. People who actively refuse to acknowledge truths are living in a reality tunnel of mental illness or emotional immaturity.

An elderly woman, battling senility, may tell you that she never had any children, even as they are gathered around her bed. Arguing against the obvious truth, because she doesn't have the mental capacity to accept or understand it. A child, who cannot comprehend where babies come from, may insist that the stork brings them, because he doesn't have the mental capacity to accept or understand the truth. Sociopaths make their own truths. They don't believe anyone else's interpretations of the facts, no matter how flawed their own may be.

Everything in life is based on interpretation. But truth is, I believe, a finite, very definable, very objective thing. I believe it can be mired in subjective speculation. If one points at the sky and insists it is green, is it green because they (subjectively) believe this to be the truth? No. It just means that their eyesight is bad or that they have some other deficiency that won't allow them to acknowledge a universal truth.

I also believe that how one objectifies truth is certainly a very defining character trait. How one comes to terms with reality vs. fantasy. Not all truths are absolutes. Sometimes, when you don't have all the facts, a truth has the potential to change. But when the case is closed, the case is closed and you have to accept the facts you have in hand and not pretend that your proof is just around the next corner. Accepting reality is something that we, as rational, functional grown ups, don't much like to do, but that we have to do. Every day.

::hopping off the soapbox, looking around:: Oh, this is a karaoke bar? Well, somebody else should take this microphone. And quick, too.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummmmm...ok...and your point is???

5/21/2006 11:52 PM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Well-articulated, thoughtful comments are always appreciated, Anonymous.

And while I'm not required to have a point in a personal weblog, I thought I'd rambled on long enough to have made it. Hard to imagine I didn't talk enough. Maybe if you read it again, it'll be more clear to you.

If it still confuses you, send me your email addy. I have some graphics that I didn't attach to the post, but I recognize that some people do better when you use pictures to illustrate a point. I've been lucky in that most of my regular readers aren't in that group.

5/22/2006 7:39 AM  
Blogger AaA said...

Heh, nice.

Yeah, maybe the 'Dick and Jane Learn About Truth' edition might be better for some.


Nice to see I'm not the only moral objectivist around.

5/22/2006 10:02 AM  
Blogger Highlander said...

Anonymous,

The truth is, you seem very much like a complete tool to me.

Hey, I've got a good idea -- why don't you go troll people your own mental size?

Of course, I realize few of those people have blogs, because most of them haven't mastered skills like 'writing' as yet. But you could hunt around. You might get lucky.

Alternatively, my entire ass is yours to kiss, pretty much any time you feel the urge.

5/22/2006 11:15 AM  
Anonymous L.C. said...

My mother has Alzheimer's, and during her descent into the disease, she reverted into her own world, and therefore, had her own set of "truths" to work with. It was quite a lesson in the fact that absolutes don't exist sometimes. Interpretation is everything, depending on our circumstances.
If nothing else, other people's truths--when they challenge our own--make us think. And I guess that is usually a good thing.

5/22/2006 2:44 PM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Like you say, LC, the whole notion had me thinking most of yesterday about the topic.

My ex father-in-law had his own tragic descent and I know how difficult it can be sometimes when the 'truths' change.

How do we define 'truth' in a group where the mental and emotional capabilities are so diverse? I'm not the expert. But, I have to believe that at the bottom of things there is an absolute truth. How we choose to perceive it will vary. And how the variations affect us immediately and the world around us...well, that's fodder for another day, perhaps.

Thanks (as always) for stopping by.

Highlander & Nate -

If Anonymous really didn't understand my point and has any interest in trying to, I'm sure I'll get email. Otherwise, as you've both told me on WAY too many occasions, not worth my time. Thanks for the back up, though. You're quality joes, and I'm glad to know ya.

5/22/2006 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Permit me to crave your pardon, before all and sundry, for my obtuseness. As I was rambling through the intellectual meadow that is the blogsphere, I came across what appeared to be a meditation on the immutable nature of truth, a sort of refutation of the doctrine of the noted philosopher Pinto, who inquired, in Animal House, how he could know that the color he observed was the same color that was observed by others. Personally, I prefer the response offered by Dennis Miller ("check the crayon box, asshole").

To us slower types, the difference between making a statement that you know is untrue and making a statement that proves to be incorrect is that in the former case your are said to "lying" and in the latter case, you are said to be "wrong". I'm not aware of any suggestion being made that anyone, be he/she President or janitor, can claim immunity from consequences on the grounds that they were "wrong", as opposed to "lying", which appeared to me (and, again, you must make allowance for my modest intellectual resources) to be the contention that you purported to be refuting; thus my request that you clarify your point.

On the other hand, to those of us who dwell in the intellectual slime, only dimly able to perceive the wisdom of our betters, it does appear that there is often an enormous difference between lying and being wrong, e.g. an old women on her deathbed who denies having children because she is senile occupies a qualitatively different moral plane from a women who denies having children because she doesn't want to acknowledge having abused and neglected them.

In any event, it is clear to me that I should abstain from taking up the time of my betters with my feeble efforts to comprehend that which shall ever be beyond my grasp, so I shall go and darken your towels no more.

5/22/2006 7:54 PM  
Blogger Highlander said...

Yay!

But I'll bet he doesn't mean it.

5/22/2006 8:04 PM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Wow.

I'm humbled. Humbled because, according to the tracker on my site, Anonymous must have driven several hundred miles overnight and then, after consulting various pop culture reference texts and (clearly) with the aid of a beard, graced my little site again.

Wow.

Too bad, I completely misunderstood the original comment, Ummmmm...ok...and your point is???. I didn't realize what you were trying to seek clarification on the difference between a wrong (as opposed to a right) and a lie (as opposed to a truth). My bad.

As I said originally, this is just my opinion, and I'm hardly an expert, like you, in this field. Perhaps, your own weblog will have a far more advanced diatribe on the issue. But, of course, I haven't been invited to your own weblog.

As for your point, had I understood it more clearly when you originally posted, are the consequences not the same for egregious information, be it a lie or a wrong? If the senile old woman, indeed, has children, how does her intent negate the fact that there are children? The truth is still the truth. The interpretation of the truth, whereby morals and intent and motives are factored in can change how that inaccuracy is perceived. But, the facts bear out that the woman has children. Non-invisible, breathing children. And whether or not her intent was to deny them because she was mentally incapable of acknowledging the truth, or because she refused to acknowledge the truth because of another, less salutory motive, the truth remains the same.

5/22/2006 10:00 PM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Oh, and one more thing, Anonymous, I'm about done with anonymous comments. I'm always willing to entertain the other side of a debate, but I'm reserving my time and effort for someone willing to participate in the discussion. And to participate, I expect a name, email, etc. If not, consider yourself deleted the next time you drop by.

5/22/2006 10:27 PM  
Blogger Your Girl Friday said...

Ouch... things are getting heavy in here!!! I thought blogging was supposed to be fun!!

5/23/2006 6:49 PM  

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